Belief and Reason: Which Comes First

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Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2009 09:50 am
I am looking to challenge the standard notion of the relationship between our beliefs and our reasons.

It is generally accepted that all beliefs have a reason behind them. When someone says they believe something, they usually can immediately provide some reason for their belief.

It would seem to me an almost universal understanding that the reason is the causal force behind a belief: people say "I believe because of this reason". This can be informally reworded: "I observed this (or some other manner in which we gain knowledge), from which I derived this belief."

This view of the matter seems far to blunt at best, completely backwards at worst. Unfortunately, my own view of it is hardly fleshed out, and so I wish to play the role of devil's advocate.

If you accept this common notion, defend it, advocate it, convince me. If you don't accept this notion, please clear my thinking and enlighten me.
 
nameless
 
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2009 02:26 pm
@Mr Fight the Power,
What is, is.
Any 'reasons' are personal Perspectival fantasy (like 'cause and effect').
Because our computer brain and ego/thoughts seek and therefore 'find' 'reasons', does not mean that there are any beyond such processes.
'Universal' only in the perceived universe of the 'reasoner'.
One's imagined 'reasons' are sufficient for the one (and perhaps for the freakish few similar Perspectives). Every psychopath has her reasons. The pathological processes provides very convincing 'reasons' at times!

Nothing comes 'first'. 'Beliefs' exist in areas of the brain where 'critical thought' is diminished. They are diametrically opposed; the more of one, the less of the other. Synchronous.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2009 02:59 pm
@Mr Fight the Power,
Mr. Fight the Power wrote:
I am looking to challenge the standard notion of the relationship between our beliefs and our reasons.

It is generally accepted that all beliefs have a reason behind them. When someone says they believe something, they usually can immediately provide some reason for their belief.

It would seem to me an almost universal understanding that the reason is the causal force behind a belief: people say "I believe because of this reason". This can be informally reworded: "I observed this (or some other manner in which we gain knowledge), from which I derived this belief."

This view of the matter seems far to blunt at best, completely backwards at worst. Unfortunately, my own view of it is hardly fleshed out, and so I wish to play the role of devil's advocate.

If you accept this common notion, defend it, advocate it, convince me. If you don't accept this notion, please clear my thinking and enlighten me.

The question, why do to believe so-and-so? is ambiguous. It may be a request for expanation, or it may be a request for justification.

Here is an example of what I mean:

"Why do you believe in God?"

Answers:
1. Because I was raised in a very religious home, and we were taught to believe in God.

2. Because there is a universe, and someone must have created it, so there must be a God.

Answer 1 is an explanation of why I believe in God.
Answer 2 is a justification of my belief in God.

They can both be true.

So reason (2) may be the cause of my belief, but it need not be. It depends on the believer.
 
Thunkd
 
Reply Sat 4 Apr, 2009 10:07 pm
@Mr Fight the Power,
People often believe things first and find reasons to support their beliefs after the fact. We are very good at rationalizing things to ourselves.

I suspect this is in large part the combination of two hardwired survival traits. 1) Being able to decide things quickly, even the wrong decision, is often a valuable trait... think prehistoric man fleeing after hearing what may or may not be a saber-toothed tiger. Even if he is wrong this particular time, making that decision quickly every time will tend to help him survive. 2) The human mind is very good at filling in gaps... think of the the classic illusion where there are three pacman shaped pieces, two below and one at the top, turned with the open mouths facing inward so that it looks like the missing parts of the circles form an invisible triangle File:Kanizsa triangle.svg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia The human mind takes these three pacman pieces and tries to make a consistent picture of them.

So the human mind jumps to conclusions quickly and to fill in the gaps and make everything consistent, it comes up with reasons to support it's conclusions. I suspect that there are psychology studies on this subject if you are interested.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 4 Apr, 2009 10:19 pm
@Thunkd,
Thunkd wrote:
People often believe things first and find reasons to support their beliefs after the fact. We are very good at rationalizing things to ourselves.

I suspect this is in large part the combination of two hardwired survival traits. 1) Being able to decide things quickly, even the wrong decision, is often a valuable trait... think prehistoric man fleeing after hearing what may or may not be a saber-toothed tiger. Even if he is wrong this particular time, making that decision quickly every time will tend to help him survive. 2) The human mind is very good at filling in gaps... think of the the classic illusion where there are three pacman shaped pieces, two below and one at the top, turned with the open mouths facing inward so that it looks like the missing parts of the circles form an invisible triangle File:Kanizsa triangle.svg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia The human mind takes these three pacman pieces and tries to make a consistent picture of them.

So the human mind jumps to conclusions quickly and to fill in the gaps and make everything consistent, it comes up with reasons to support it's conclusions. I suspect that there are psychology studies on this subject if you are interested.


The fact that reasons are sometimes rationalization does not show that the reasons are not good reasons, and prove what they are supposed to prove. Suppose I believe in God because I was brought up to believe in God, so I did not believe in God for any reason, but I discover an argument for God which is a good argument, it is still a good argument for God even when I use it to justify my belief in God. The fact that it is a rationalization has nothing to do with the merits of the argument. And even if I do not believe in God because of the argument, that does not show that the argument is not a good argument, and does not prove that God exists. It shows only that the argument is not the motive of my belief in God. But the argument itself, as I said, stand (or falls) on its own merits.
 
Thunkd
 
Reply Sat 4 Apr, 2009 11:21 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
The fact that reasons are sometimes rationalization does not show that the reasons are not good reasons, and prove what they are supposed to prove. Suppose I believe in God because I was brought up to believe in God, so I did not believe in God for any reason, but I discover an argument for God which is a good argument, it is still a good argument for God even when I use it to justify my belief in God. The fact that it is a rationalization has nothing to do with the merits of the argument. And even if I do not believe in God because of the argument, that does not show that the argument is not a good argument, and does not prove that God exists. It shows only that the argument is not the motive of my belief in God. But the argument itself, as I said, stand (or falls) on its own merits.


You are right, if a reason is good, it doesn't matter that it is a rationalization. However, there is a difference between believing a reason because it is a good reason and because it is a rationalization. If you believe it because it is a good reason, then you are more likely to have a belief system that enables you to effectively deduce useful facts about your environment. If you believe it because it is a rationalization, you just lucked out this time. Next time round your rationalization might not coincidentally happen to be a good reason, and your belief system isn't particularly suited to deducing useful facts.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 4 Apr, 2009 11:29 pm
@Thunkd,
Thunkd wrote:
You are right, if a reason is good, it doesn't matter that it is a rationalization. However, there is a difference between believing a reason because it is a good reason and because it is a rationalization. If you believe it because it is a good reason, then you are more likely to have a belief system that enables you to effectively deduce useful facts about your environment. If you believe it because it is a rationalization, you just lucked out this time. Next time round your rationalization might not coincidentally happen to be a good reason, and your belief system isn't particularly suited to deducing useful facts.


Yes. It is better to have good reasons for believing something, than not.
 
Ultracrepidarian
 
Reply Sun 26 Apr, 2009 12:29 am
@kennethamy,
I accept the common notion that reasons cause beliefs. Commonly held beliefs are often expected to be misguided notions, but in this case I believe there is good reason. Um, first I'd like to suggest that most of these words are often interchangeable when one does not care to be precise. Offhand, I can say offhandedly reasons are beliefs seen in a casual relationship with other beliefs. This is the way I think. I have beliefs about what I've seen and what kind of notions those reasons imply.

Sometimes our beliefs are caused by less than we would like, although I don't think the two examples so far mentioned do a good job exemplifying this. The caveman merely trusts the word of another caveman. This seems like a very good rational reason for believing a belief (sorry, it must have been something I ate). And as for triangles, well, let's not go there.

To conclude, I promise, I believe sometimes people pretend to have good reasons when, in fact, this people have bad excuses and we get very emotional about beliefs, real or imaginary and sometimes words can be confusing. I see no one has mentioned instinct yet. There it is, I said it. All that aside, I think beliefs are reasons for more belief and data builds upon more data.

To quote -
"It is generally accepted that all beliefs have a reason behind them. When someone says they believe something, they usually can immediately provide some reason for their belief."

Italics unto me.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 26 Apr, 2009 06:29 am
@Ultracrepidarian,
Ultracrepidarian wrote:
I accept the common notion that reasons cause beliefs.
.


Reasons cause beliefs sometimes. But not all the time. For instance, it may be that a person believes in God not for any reason, but because he has been brought up to believe in God, and his family all believe in God. So, in this case, there is a cause for his believing in God, but no reason
 
Ultracrepidarian
 
Reply Sun 26 Apr, 2009 01:33 pm
@kennethamy,
Well, like the example with the caveman, I think someone telling you to believe something is reason to do so. Not just anyone of course. On matters of health, one consults a doctor. On religion, people tend to value their family's opinions. Is that right? Well, ...

But, I accept that man has belief without reason sometimes, but I'd still say that reason does cause belief and not the other way round. Man sees and then man believes and somewhere inbetween he reasons.

Well, let me think. I'll have to get back to you gentlemen.
 
Mr Fight the Power
 
Reply Sun 26 Apr, 2009 05:24 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
The question, why do to believe so-and-so? is ambiguous. It may be a request for expanation, or it may be a request for justification.

Here is an example of what I mean:

"Why do you believe in God?"

Answers:
1. Because I was raised in a very religious home, and we were taught to believe in God.

2. Because there is a universe, and someone must have created it, so there must be a God.

Answer 1 is an explanation of why I believe in God.
Answer 2 is a justification of my belief in God.

They can both be true.

So reason (2) may be the cause of my belief, but it need not be. It depends on the believer.


It is my general position that belief cannot be held without something at least subjectively considered evidence, and belief cannot be held in the face of contradictory evidence.

In this thread, when I say reason for belief, I mean reason in terms of justification for belief, the argument presented behind the belief.

The question I am getting at is whether we may form beliefs before we are even aware of them, and if the justification we provide for them is largely ad hoc and selective.

I guess basically I am trying to ask if there is a cause for belief before there is a justification for belief.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Sun 26 Apr, 2009 08:25 pm
@Mr Fight the Power,
Vague memories....

I'm recalling something from psychology that humans tend to reason after the fact - they act, then justify; take a stance, then gather evidence and reason.

Anyone else recall something to this effect?
 
Ultracrepidarian
 
Reply Sun 26 Apr, 2009 08:34 pm
@Mr Fight the Power,
I have a hard time with this.
But if there is a cause for a man's belief and then a justification...
couldn't the man fail to make a jusification? Wouldn't he then have to change his beliefs?

Doesn't thinking produce beliefs? This is what I experience.
Part of the reason for my confusion is that the mind is not really so linear or one dimensional. I could ask doesn't speculation produce thinking? Doubtless, there is a web of activity and processes are doubling back everywhere.

But I still think that by and large, we organize beliefs from our perceptions, abstractions, conceptions, and finally words. How can you believe something you're not aware of? That is how I read the question.

---------- Post added at 09:51 PM ---------- Previous post was at 09:34 PM ----------

I am willing to accept that man does act before thinking sometimes and that he always will think after he acts. This is basically my silly position.

Um, we can leap to conclusions, but usually we just take the train of thought. Sorry.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 26 Apr, 2009 11:01 pm
@Mr Fight the Power,
Mr. Fight the Power wrote:
It is my general position that belief cannot be held without something at least subjectively considered evidence, and belief cannot be held in the face of contradictory evidence.

In this thread, when I say reason for belief, I mean reason in terms of justification for belief, the argument presented behind the belief.

The question I am getting at is whether we may form beliefs before we are even aware of them, and if the justification we provide for them is largely ad hoc and selective.

I guess basically I am trying to ask if there is a cause for belief before there is a justification for belief.


But, the justification might very well also be the cause of the belief. I might never have believed in God until I learned of a particular argument for God, and as a result, I believed in God. But, yes, I might believe in God because I was raised in a very religious environment, and then, afterward learn of an argument for God which justified His existence.
 
ACWaller
 
Reply Sat 2 May, 2009 12:15 pm
@Mr Fight the Power,
I guess like a lot of words, they mean different things to different people - for example some take 'belief' to mean any idea or statement about the world, and for others it is a more specific term reserved for matters of judgement, as opposed to 'facts', matters in which the evidence is supposed to be obvious.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 5 May, 2009 02:41 pm
@ACWaller,
ACWaller wrote:
I guess like a lot of words, they mean different things to different people - for example some take 'belief' to mean any idea or statement about the world, and for others it is a more specific term reserved for matters of judgement, as opposed to 'facts', matters in which the evidence is supposed to be obvious.


Can't I both believe and also know the same thing. For example, not only do I believe that Quito is the capital of Ecuador, but I know it is too. In fact, how would it be possible for you to know something unless you also believed it?
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Tue 5 May, 2009 02:57 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
In fact, how would it be possible for you to know something unless you also believed it?


Denial. A person might, for example, know that he has an alcohol problem yet believe otherwise.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 6 May, 2009 11:01 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
Denial. A person might, for example, know that he has an alcohol problem yet believe otherwise.


I wonder what would make you think, then, that he knew he had the problem? (People do say things like, "I know that so-and-so is dead, but I don't believe it". But they don't mean it literally. They can be paraphrased as saying something like, "I know so-and-so is dead, but I cannot reconcile myself to it", or, "I keep feeling he is still around", or even, "I miss him so much").
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Wed 6 May, 2009 11:38 pm
@nameless,
nameless wrote:
What is, is.
Any 'reasons' are personal Perspectival fantasy (like 'cause and effect').
Because our computer brain and ego/thoughts seek and therefore 'find' 'reasons', does not mean that there are any beyond such processes.
'Universal' only in the perceived universe of the 'reasoner'.
One's imagined 'reasons' are sufficient for the one (and perhaps for the freakish few similar Perspectives). Every psychopath has her reasons. The pathological processes provides very convincing 'reasons' at times!

Nothing comes 'first'. 'Beliefs' exist in areas of the brain where 'critical thought' is diminished. They are diametrically opposed; the more of one, the less of the other. Synchronous.


Sure our 'reasons' are personal perspective, but fantasy? Why is it any more or less "fantasy" than what you 'think' is *really* occurring? More importantly, how does this bit of 'knowledge' benefit this discussion (I hope you didn't think your comments would end this discussion, as we're all aware we're the ones that 'reason')? What does it matter if there are any 'reasons' beyond our processes? The point of the post - and of epistemology - is considering our processes. If you don't want want to consider our processes (in this case, the way we form "belief" and "reasons"), what was your point? Was your intent to abstractualize the discussion so much so that it became 'pointless' to discuss any further?

Really, I don't mean to come off as abrasive, I'm quite lost. If you find the time to address this, please also note which parts of the brain exhibit 'belief' and which parts of the brain exhibit 'critical thought'. Thanks.

kennethamy wrote:
I wonder what would make you think, then, that he knew he had the problem? (People do say things like, "I know that so-and-so is dead, but I don't believe it". But they don't mean it literally. They can be paraphrased as saying something like, "I know so-and-so is dead, but I cannot reconcile myself to it", or, "I keep feeling he is still around", or even, "I miss him so much").


Good point!
 
the wise one phil
 
Reply Thu 7 May, 2009 03:19 am
@Mr Fight the Power,
it is reason that give faith to our belief anyting we belief that lack reason is falsity
 
 

 
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